During my recent staycation and blogging hiatus, I had the opportunity to visit Eataly, Mario Batali and Lidia and Joe Bastianich's recently opened Italian mega-grocery store near Madison Square Park. If you can get yourself through the omnipresent crowds, the store—an attempt to clone the original Eataly in Turin— is quite impressive. Offering a vast array of the best imported dry goods from the Italian motherland, fresh produce and top-quality meats from some of the best domestic producers, Eataly is definitely a welcome addition to the city's ever-expanding list of gourmet markets.
Once you get past the entrance of Eataly, where customers are packed to the brim standing in line at the gelato, espresso, and panini counters, one of the first things you will see is the impressive fish stand. I cannot think of many other places in New York with such a wide selection of seafood. For some reason, I thought that the mako shark might have been screaming my name.
My favorite section of the gourmet grocery was the pasta section, where you can purchase just about any shape of dry pasta imaginable from a variety of authentic Italian producers, from small artisanal pasta makers to everyday Barilla. The prices are reasonable, too.
Eataly's meat case is impressive. While pricey, it's packed with gorgeous cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal. You can even find a nice selection of offal and fresh rabbit, which can be hard to track down in New York. One of these days, I will pick up some of the luxurious Piedmontese beef.
And, I just have to add, I picked up a can of salt-packed anchovies from the dry goods section... but, you'll just have to wait and see what I whip up in a later post.
I will have to return Eataly to try the breads baked in the wood-burning oven, but they certainly looked delicious.
As you twist through the aisles and the crowds, there are plenty of treats to be found from cheeses (burrata!) to these sausages from Cesare Casella's Salumeria Rosi.
In addition to the already-open Manzo, described as a "Piedmontese steakhouse," Eataly will also have a rooftop brewery and beer garden, which is to open in February. In the meantime, you can find a great selection of Italian microbrews in the store as well as plenty of brews from Delaware's Dogfish Head Brewery, which is collaborating on the rooftop brewery. Molto Mario must have put the Molto Malto beer on the shelf himself.
If only I lived near Madison Square Park, I would undoubtedly stop at Eataly often on my way home from work to pick up some prepared foods and fresh pastas for dinners. On second thought, my wallet is glad that I live nowhere near the store.
Eataly received lots of press for its "vegetable butcher" gimmick, where an employee will clean and chop your vegetables free of charge, but the vegetables for sale are plenty beautiful on their own. You're much better off taking these home and preparing them yourself.
I'm a sucker for cured meats and cheeses, but the crowds hoarding the counters at these stations were insane. I will get to them one of these days...
Eataly is definitely worth a visit. While the prices are high, they are not any worse—and in some cases they are better—than other gourmet markets in New York. Best of all, the quality of the foods is apparent. While the crowds can make navigating through the store a bit of a hassle, most of the people wandering the aisles are just oglers; I was able to pick up the anchovies, some pasta, and a few cuts of meat and checkout in under twenty minutes.
So, what Italian treat did I make after I returned home from Eataly? Stay tuned...